We are seeing a growing number of efforts to strengthen the capacity of leaders in higher education, such as those programs offered by the American Council on Education and the Big Ten Academic Alliance; yet, the existing scholarly literature is limited in this area. The purpose of this paper is to add to the body of scholarship on academic leadership education by summarizing the current state of formal training and development initiatives within the Association of American Universities (AAU), focusing primarily on the experiences and perspectives of academic deans and associate deans.
This study consisted of a qualitative review of current academic leadership initiatives promoted on the AAU member institution websites. Additionally, the author conducted interviews with deans and associate deans from AAU institutions to explore dominant themes associated with academic leadership in more detail.
An analysis of the AAU member websites led to the development of a comprehensive matrix consisting of nearly 30 single-spaced pages of leadership initiatives, separated by institution and coordinating office(s). Based on the interviews with deans and associate deans, three communication-centered themes related to the study and practice of academic leadership emerge: academic leadership as the art of cultivating relationships, academic leadership as a direct response to “wicked problems,” and academic leadership as a mosaic of administrative competencies.
Acknowledging the value of their experience in variety leadership development programs, the responses from current deans and associate deans may encourage the development of future programs in this area – programs that provide opportunities for faculty and staff collaboration and equip current and future leaders with the skills and concepts for navigating the complex and contested environment within which contemporary colleges and universities must survive. Additionally, the initial findings from this project may be included in the curriculum of formal and informal academic leadership initiatives.
As leading academic research institutions, one may expect to find a number of well-developed best practices in the area of leadership training and development. Focusing on this group provides a useful benchmark for understanding the methods and content of academic leadership programs. Furthermore, representing the diversity of American research institutions, the AAU provides a broad sample of institutions for this research project. As a point of entry into this area of research, the conversations with deans and associate deans, coupled with the findings of the AAU website review, provide a unique perspective into academic leadership development – an area of growing scholarly and applied importance.
Gigliotti, R. (2017), "An exploratory study of academic leadership education within the Association of American Universities", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. 9 No. 2, pp. 196-210. https://doi.org/10.1108/JARHE-11-2015-0080Download as .RIS
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